“You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.” (Exodus 20:7 NIV84)
How we use a name expresses how we feel toward that person or thing. The intent of our heart reveals itself as we begin to add actions and adjectives to things and people. I find it interesting that we have a tendency to use God’s name in places where it doesn’t belong. We curse people with it. We simply curse with it. All of this tears at our relationship with God. Listen, our misuse of God’s name doesn’t affect Him. It affects us! It breaks the healthy relationship that we as creatures should have with our Creator.
In explanation to this commandment Martin Luther says, “We should fear and love God so that we do not curse, swear, use satanic arts, lie or deceive by His name, but call upon it in every trouble, pray, praise, and give thanks.” Note the inclusion of the phrase, “We should fear and love God.” True obedience to God comes from the heart of faith, not ritual. God desires our life of obedience to be rooted in our reverence, awe and love for Him because of His grace toward us. Note also that Luther doesn’t just address the negative side of the commandment (“don’t”). He adds to this and all the other commandments a positive imperative. He tells us what we properly ought to do. Rightly, he tells us that we ought to continuously call upon the name of the Lord when we are troubled or in need. We ought to use His name in our prayers of praise and thanksgiving for all that He has done for us.
May we bring glory to our God by simply using His name as we ought to!